TaPP conference members

Experts in UK trade policy from across the world met last Friday at the inaugural Trade and Public Policy (TaPP) conference to discuss where UK trade policy is working well, less well, and identify ways forward.

Held at the Blavatnik School of Government, the conference brought together researchers, senior civil servants, parliamentary staff, journalists, and representatives from civil society and business.

Dr Emily Jones, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School and co-founder and co-director of the Trade and Public Policy (TaPP) Network, said:

“As the UK settles into the ‘new normal’ of managing its external trade policy, our network looks to foster a frank, constructive and evidence-based discussion, including weighing up trade-offs. How, for example, can the UK best align its domestic agricultural and food policies with its trade agenda? How do you balance the UK’s trade and security interests?

“Friday’s discussions were a great start, helping improve links between policymakers and academics from across the UK and beyond, with lots of brainstorming on possible ways forward.”

The conference’s keynote speaker, Rebecca Fisher-Lamb, UK Ambassador to the Economic Agencies in Geneva and Deputy Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO) said:

“The UK wants a WTO that can navigate the top issues for society and business. The big challenges to the trading system, whether that’s supply chain resilience, tackling economic coercion, responding to COVID and the current food security crisis and meeting green and net zero targets all need a global response, which has to come from the WTO. Across all these issues we want to inject evidence into discussions. That means we actively welcome expertise from business, NGOs, and academics, to help inform our policy and why this new group is so important.

“What is the biggest challenge over the next five years for the WTO? The WTO is a consensus-based organisation, with 164 members. At a macro level, building the trust needed for a collective vision, and a sense of shared endeavour, remains the top challenge. Just now members do a lot of talking at each other - and, to realise this ambition, we all need to do more listening to each other. That is why the UK is focused on WTO reform so we can rebuild the much-needed trust between members to enable the WTO to respond to the major challenges facing the global trading system”

Dr Gregory Messenger, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Bristol and co-founder and co-director of the Trade and Public Policy (TaPP) Network, said:

“Friday’s conference did exactly what TaPP was set up to do: draw on the largest network of academic experts on UK trade policy to bring together researchers and policy professionals, increasing the breadth and depth of expertise available to decision-makers in UK policy, and help inform the public debate. Having such strong engagement from government, Parliament, civil society, business, and international organisations is a testament to the demand for the work that TaPP does.”

This event was supported by the Oxford Policy Engagement Network (OPEN) and PolicyBristol and funded from the University of Oxford and University of Bristol’s allocation from Research England’s Policy Support Fund.